Sunday, September 4, 2011

On the "Explenation Point" (sic)


Or so I have heard it called. This possibly reveals the primary reason for the unfortunate punctuation mark's excessive misuse. The fact that certain people believe that it is a punctuation to indicate an explanation rather than an exclamation (a fortunately much rarer occurrence in writing than in speech). Such a person would state "The sky is blue because the different wavelengths of light are refracted by differing amounts in the atmosphere!"

In general, an exclamation mark at the end of a long sentence is almost always being used incorrectly. Most often, an exclamation mark should appear after a single word or phrase (as in "Hey!" or "Shut up!") as a way of indicating that it would have been exclaimed had it been said in speech. The Oxford English Dictionary essentially defines "to exclaim" as "to cry out suddenly and vehemently; to cry out from pain, anger, delight, surprise, etc."

(On a side note: It is a little known fact that "sic" as in the title of this post is actually not an abbreviation, but rather a word of its own, derived from the Latin word "sīc" meaning "thus".)
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